Deciding between central AC and a standard window unit can seem like a complicated task. However, it can be simplified to a comparison of cost, efficacy, and efficiency in relation to your home’s needs. Follow our guide to see which option is right for you!
Climate is one of the most important factors to consider when deciding between a central AC and a window AC. First, ask yourself these questions:
1. How many months out of the year do I need AC?
2. Is humidity a concern?
3. Is pollen or dust removal a concern?
If your climate requires that you use AC for a large portion of the year, is very humid, or is high in allergens, then central AC is the way to go!
What is the Size of Your Home?
The size of your home is a major factor in deciding whether to invest in central AC. This is because window AC units are very cost-effective on a small scale, but at the average home size of 2500 sq ft, central AC can end up being a better bargain due to energy costs and home value in the long term. Generally, central AC is better for medium to large homes.
Window ACs are typically less advantageous for a medium-to-large house because they require a large number of individually controlled ACs that each take over the use of a window and outlet. These ACs are also known for uneven cooling, which can make one side of the room hot and the other cold.
Window ACs also cost much more in electricity than Central AC for a 2,500 SQ FT home. Check out this table to see the cost breakdown!
|AC Type||Amount of Units||Lifespan||Upfront Cost||Electricity Cost||Other|
|Window AC 5,000 BTU||10||5-10 Years||$1500||$0.60/hour
or $5,126 (For 24/7 for a year)
|Takes up 10 windows & 10 outlets|
|Window AC 10,000 BTU||5||5-10 Years||$2,000||$0.55/hour
or $4,699 (For 24/7 for a year)
|Takes up 5 windows & 5 outlets|
|Central AC||1||10-20 Years||Between $4,000 and $20,000 depending on your current ductwork||$0.39/hour
or $3,332 (For 24/7 for a year)
|Raises home value by 10%|
This data is based on the avg. sqft of an American home at 2500 sqft, and the average cost of electricity at $0.13 per kWh.
As shown above, central AC is generally a better deal for a 2,500 sqft home. For a smaller home or for homeowners willing to reduce the number of units and leave some rooms uncooled, window units are cheaper. If you can get by with three 10,000 BTU AC units or six 5,000 BTU units, then Window ACs are less expensive. However, for the average home size or larger, central AC’s are more cost-effective.
Central AC Can Raise Your Home’s Value!
Adding central AC to your home can increase its value by 10%. If you are planning on selling in the future (even 20 years in the future) installing central AC is definitely worth it. Your system is likely to last 15-20 years, and even when it needs to be replaced, the ductwork is already installed, and you may only need to replace the AC Unit. Buyers are very interested in central AC, especially in hot and humid climates.
Try This Cheatsheet to See Which Option Fits You Best!
|Central AC if:||Window AC if:|
|You can handle upfront cost||You’re concerned about upfront cost|
|Concerned about allergens||Not concerned about allergens|
|You need AC for 5 months or more||You only need AC for 1-4 months per year|
|Your home is 2,500 sq ft or larger||Your house is on the smaller side|
|You want to raise your home value||You rent, or don’t plan to sell your house|
|You are concerned about even cooling||You don’t need to cool every room in your house|
|You want to control your AC from one thermostat||You don’t mind controlling AC’s individually|
Some Tips for Central AC Installation:
- Installation is cheaper in the winter
- If you don’t have ducts, try a ductless system instead of paying for duct installation
- Try financing the installation if you can’t afford the upfront cost
- Do your research and obtain multiple quotes to make sure you get the best deal
- Leaky ductwork can raise your energy cost, so consider replacing old ducts